God the Father gave his only Son to the world only through Mary. Whatever desires the patriarchs may have cherished, whatever entreaties the prophets and saints of the Old Law may have had for 4,000 years to obtain that treasure, it was Mary alone who merited it and found grace before God by the power of her prayers and the perfection of her virtues. “The world being unworthy,” said Saint Augustine, “to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her.”
St. Louis de Montfort True Devotion to Mary
The fourth in my series explaining why the Hail Mary is a prayer for all Christians not just Catholics.
Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners.
Now, and at the hour of our death, Amen.
In part 1 the Angelic Salutation, we talked about how the opening words of the Hail Mary, taken directly from the greeting of the Angel Gabriel, signifies not only the importance of Mary as the very first Christian but her position relative to the heavenly host.
In Part 2 the Human confirmation, we noted how the words of the Angel to Mary taken directly Elizabeth’s greeting from scripture signifies the confirmation of the angel’s message and that in addition to the angels it is for man both born and unborn to honor Mary in every generation.
In Part 3: The Holy Name: We noted both the power of the Holy Name of Jesus but that the Hail Mary in direct worship of Jesus, invokes his holy name.
So let’s now start part 4: The Maternal Observation.
We have reached the point in the prayer where from the perspective of explaining the Hail Mary to our protestant brothers, our task has become twofold.
Prior to this point each phrase of the Hail Mary that we discussed was either directly quoting scripture or invoking the Holy Name of Jesus. That being the case our Protestant brothers would not, indeed could not object to hem as false, or improper.
From this point on the Hail Mary takes a freer form therefore it will be necessary to examine what follows from two perspectives:
We need to confirm the words are true & proper
If we wish our brother Christians to even consider what we say, it’s necessary to confirm for them that any statement made in the prayer from this point is a statement of absolute fact. Furthermore if rather than a statement a request or petition is made, it must be confirmed that the petition is consistent with proper Christian Practice.
And once the veracity of the statement or the properness of the petition is established we can return to the task that we’ve performed previously when evaluating the prayer
Explaining the significance of praying these words
So with our two tasks firmly in mind let’s being by performing the primary task of examining the words in question and establish them as facts:
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Let’s start with the words Holy Mary.
A: Mary is Holy because the followers of Christ are Holy.
We’ve already by examining the words of he Angel Gabriel, established that Mary is the first of the believers, the very first Christian, who consented to God plan at risk to herself (Luke 1:26-38) who stood by Christ at his crucifixion when all the disciples other than John fled (John 19:25-27) and who was present with the Disciples devoted to prayer after the ascension (Acts 1:14).
Thus we can firmly establish by scripture itself that Mary was a follower of Christ. Having established Mary as a believer we can now demonstrate that the description of her as Holy is completely consistent with the New Testament treatment of believers.
In Old Testament with minor exceptions such as Elisha Holy is used to describe places or things, Holy mountains, holy bread etc etc but in the New Testament it’s made very clear that the believers in Christ are in fact Holy. This is stated by Luke:
Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.
He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.
Beloved, although I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones.
Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.
1 Peter 1:14-15
And by John:
When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.
Over and over these new testament writers in inspired scripture refer to the believers as Holy Ones, even in prophesy. Therefore we have clearly established by inspired scripture that the followers of Christ are the Holy Ones and thus create the Thus we can state without question:
Mary is a follower of Christ.
Scripture establishes the Followers of Christ as Holy.
Therefore the words “Holy Mary” are entirely true and accuratee description of her.
Now let’s consider the accuracy of rest of the phrase: “Mother of God”
B: Mary is the Mother of God because scripture clearly establishes Jesus is in fact God.
St. Louis De Montfort, one of the greatest of Marian saints was very clear on Mary’s relationship to God the Father
With the whole Church I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere creature fashioned by the hands of God is, compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, “I am he who is”. Consequently, this great Lord, who is ever independent and self-sufficient, never had and does not now have any absolute need of the Blessed Virgin for the accomplishment of his will and the manifestation of his glory. To do all things he has only to will them.
Yet he along with the entire Catholic, Orthodox and some protestants (Anglicans & Lutherans) also declare Mary the Mother of God, but why?
It is of course no problem to establish Mary as the mother of Christ, Her conception (Luke 1:38) her pregnancy (Luke 1:39-45) her delivery ( Luke 2:4-7) and even her admonishing him as a mother does (Luke 2:48) are all clearly established in scripture. But Does that mean she can properly be called the Mother of God? Well that depends on one thing: Was Jesus in fact God?
The Heresy that Jesus is lesser than God is called Arianism and was condemned by both the Councils of Nicaea (325 AD) & Constantinople (381 AD) furthermore the term Theotokos (mother of God) to describe Mary dates are far back as he 2nd century and was confirmed at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) but as our protestant brothers likely give little weight to Church Councils after the Council of Jerusalem (approx 50 AD) mentioned in Acts, even ones as early as the 3rd century. So in order to satisfy our protestant brothers & make our case let’s go straight to scripture to the Gospel of John
The question of Christ’s divinity is given very clearly right at the start of John’s Gospel
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Thus we establish that the Word was there at the very beginning and was God from the very start, the light of the Human Race but let’s make sure that the light and the word are the same thing.
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
This verse establishes John is testifying to the light, which is the word and starting in verse 14 we see the key
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
So the Word is made flesh, but who is this word
There is a reason why these first 14 verses of John were read of the end of every mass before Vatican 2 and every Latin Mass since, it is the basis of Christian belief that the word was made flesh, but who is the word? Two later verses from chapter 1 that confirm this, verse 15
John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.
and verses 29- 30
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’
So John testifies to the light as Jesus and also clearly states that Jesus preceded him even though he was conceived before him.
and of course if this isn’t enough in John 5:17, 8:24, 8:28, 8:58 Jesus refers to himself directly as the I AM and in his final discourse reminds Phillip of what he has seen:
Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
And of course after his resurrection when he appears to the Disciples and shows himself to his doubting disciple, Thomas exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28b)
Thus we clearly established through the Apostle John’s writings, through John the Baptist’s declaration, through Jesus’s words to the people through his declaration to Philip and through Thomas’ confession that he Jesus is in fact God.
So let’s review:
Mary is the Mother of Jesus
Jesus is in fact God
Therefore Mary as Jesus mother is accurately described as the Mother of God
Thus we establish that we are not suggesting in the slightest that Mary preceded God but through the sacred mystery of Christ as True God & Man Mary is properly described as the mother of God.
But now that we’ve established the facts of the phrase, we still haven’t established it’s purpose, why are we praying it?
Let’s think of what we are saying with that phrase.
C: Mary has a unique relationship with God beyond merely a believer.
One might ask why we are establishing highlighting Mary given this famous Gospel exchange emphasising not the family connection but holiness that makes on blessed
While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
One might think that Catholics would dodge this Gospel, instead it is regularly proclaimed at vigil masses of Marian feasts. It is one of the shortest if not the shortest Gospel reading during the entire Church Calendar but ironically that description accurately describes Mary who heard the word of God proclaimed to her by an angel and kept it. In fact Christ is almost mimicking Gabriel in this proclamation.
Thus we are reinforcing Jesus when we proclaim the holiness of Mary, someone holy she is worthy of respect. But the greeting of the Angel and the proclamation that all generations will call her blessed signifies her uniqueness beyond this. Yes Mary is holy but by invoking Mary as the mother of God we proclaim her far beyond other holy followers of Christ. How far? Consider this:
We’ve already noted that Jesus is human, the word made flesh, and as a human prayed to God the father even though he himself was God. Over and over he bible references Jesus praying. This is in obedience to the very first commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord with God with all you heart and soul
Despite being fully God and fully man Jesus is acting in obedience to the commandment but as a person Jesus prayer to God is also obedience to another commandment
Honor your Father & your Mother.
So the Jesus by his prayers is loving God as per one commandment and also honors his father per another. But if we see Jesus honoring his father, through prayer where can we see an example of Jesus honoring his mother? Well that’s actually pretty easy, we can just go strait to the 2nd Chapter of John:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew)
There are three significant thing here concerning this passage, the 2nd & 3rd we will save for our next section but the first is most important and can not be overemphasized. When Mary approaches Jesus concerning the situation at the wedding, he is most emphatic about it:
Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.
Christ clearly and distinctly tells his mother in no uncertain term that not only is this matter none of his business but that this is not the time for him to take any public action as the messiah. Yet when Mary tells he servers: “Do whatever he tells you” does Jesus ignore the situation completely? Does her rebuke her because it’s not her time? No he acts.
The question is why? He doesn’t make it a public miracle, only the his mother and the servers know what happened, it’s not even clear that the disciples know what’s going on. So why does he do it.
I submit and suggest it’s because he is acting according to the commandment, he is honoring his mother. He is acknowledging by this act their relationship that i different between every single other human who has or will ever exist.
So Let’s review what are we doing when we say: “Holy Mary Mother of God
W e are affirming a truth backed up by scripture
W e are invoking both Mary’s relationship to Christ as a disciple and as the Mother of God backed up by scripture.
And both of these invocations are critical for what will follow.
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